Sunday, November 21, 2010

The victim of crime twice within 24 hrs

Last Friday November 19th, I attended a book launch and AMAI standing council meeting in the Mansion house in Dublin. As we have been renovating Catherine’s mother’s house in Drumcondra over the last year I took the opportunity to go to the house after the meeting to collect some of the equipment in the house to bring it back to Lismore. To park in front of the house one has to pay a parking fee. By the way, the sign informing a potential parkee has annoyed me since it was put up, as it reads “pay and display, Mon to Sun, 7.00 am to 12.00 pm. It annoys me for two reasons, basically the hrs one has to pay for parking either force those who live in the street to come home after midnight and leave before 7 am or purchase a resident parking permit. These permits are only available if you register your car for that address, which prevents people like ourselves from having a permit and so we need to pay for parking when we visit our son, who is taking care of the house or park our car around the corner in St. Patricks Parade. The second reason is probably a bit pedantic from my side, but why put on the sign Mon – Sun instead of just stating the need for pay and display. Monday to Sunday means all days in a week and the extra clarification is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Anyway, back to the crimes. As Martin would not be home before 6 pm, I loaded the equipment I could load without his assistance in the van and went over to the parking meter to buy a parking permit until around 6.30 p.m. Unfortunately, the machine gobbled up my money but refused to produce a ticket and when I pressed the refund button it also refused to give back the money. The thing went on the blink just when I put in the money. Is this crime 1? No, it is not a crime for a machine going on the blink, but it is certainly a nuisance. So, instead of wasting more money I decided as it was about 4.30 pm to park the van in St. Patricks Parade instead and collect the van when Martin would be available to load the heavier equipment. He arrived home at about 6.10 pm and I went to collect the van. By this time it was dark, but the street has a few streetlamps and is beside the railway, so I was not worried, also I have parked the van on a number of occasions overnight without any difficulty. Coming around the corner I suddenly realised from a distance that the space where I parked the van was empty. I still went to the space and recognised the car I had parked behind, but no van. I walked around the corner to see if I had gone senile and parked in a different place, but of course could not find the van. There was no sign of glass in the space where I had parked the van, but am 100% sure I locked every door of the van as I am, to use the words of one of my children, very peculiar about locking the car/van in Dublin. So this was crime 1. So after having reported the theft to the Gardai, which by the way don’t accept reports of theft by phone any longer, one has to go to the Gardai station to report in person. The garda on duty was very pleasant in taking the details, but basically said that I would be contacted when the van was found as he had put the make and number on the “system”. He actually said that I would know that the van was found before he did, and so not to contact him for updates.

I stayed in Dublin for that night with my son, and contacted the insurance company to report the van missing. After the claim department of the insurance company informed me the next morning that they would contact the gardai for the report and that all was taken care of, I started planning to go back to Lismore. There are a few options, one can either take the Aircoach from Westmoreland Street at a cost of €16.00 to Fermoy and spend around 4 hours visiting every town between Dublin and Fermoy or take the train in the direction of Cork for €15.00 to Thurles or Limerick Juntion, according to the website . As there are absolutely no public transport connections between Fermoy and Lismore, or for that matter between any train station and Lismore one has to arrange for a pick-up by friends or relatives. Having looked at the options I decided to go by train and ask Catherine to pick me up in Limerick Junction. Trying to book online I was informed that this was not possible as the train I wanted to take was departing in less than 90 minutes. So I took a taxi and went to Heuston station (€12.00), and proceeded to purchase a ticket at the ticket office. The lady in that office was very pleasant and nice and informed me that that would cost me €44.00!!!!!
When saying that the online price was only €15.00 I was informed that that was the online booking price. I would regard this as crime number two. Why does it cost nearly three times as much to purchase a ticket in the station than online. Does this mean that those who do not have the knowledge or opportunity to book online are being penalised by Irish Rail? I think so; I think this system is a total rip off. I could have phoned my son to book online for me for a later train, but as it was after 10.30, I would have to wait for the 1 pm train, waiting for 2.5 hrs while I intended to go on the 11 am one to be home before dark. Seemingly I also could have purchased a return ticket for less then I paid for the single trip ticket, why is that, why would a return ticket be cheaper than a one-way. The mind boggles even thinking about this, Irish Rail rips off those who travel one way and those who cannot purchase online. And these types of rip offs will help us to get out of the economic quagmire we are in at present? I don’t think so.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Sam Shire Saga

The Sam Shire recycling company Ltd. started operations in Lismore in a small premises at Ballyrafter on the outskirts of Lismore in January 1998 with just five employees and initially engaged in recycling wooden pallets only.

In April of 2001 Waterford County Council extended an invitation to the company to tender for the processing of dry household recyclables including cans, plastic, and cardboard. The company jumped at the opportunity, succeeded in securing the contract, and a new public and private partnership was soon in place. By issuing this contract Waterford County Council became the first Council nationwide to introduce a major recycling initiative which commenced in November 2001, and Sam Shire is the first private company to have forged such a partnership with a local authority.

The Irish examiner article on August 12, 2002 reported:
“It has worked a treat for both parties’”, says Graham Leake. “We couldn’t possibly forge a more successful and co-operative partnership and I can only see us going from strength to strength in the future’’. That’s a view shared by the Council’s director of services at its Planning and Environment Dept., Denis McCarthy. “Our link up with Sam Shire Recycling Ltd. has proven to be a huge success and we hope that it will continue for a very long time to come’’, said Mr. McCarthy. Both men are also appreciative of the level of support given to the venture by the general public. “Their supportive participation in the recycling programme has been all important’’, says Graham Leake.Part of the company’s extended business now involves the recycling of clothes and textiles, and they are also emptying bottle banks throughout the county and taking them to the Lismore plant for recycling. “There they are segregated and baled and then shipped to the UK and are sold on as far as China’’, he said.Food and drink cans are also separated in Lismore, but because there is little or no outlet for tin cans in Ireland now because of the collapsed situation at the former Irish Steel production plant they too are shipped to Britain. “Glass bottles are also processed by us and shipped to the UK to be made into sandpaper and the like’’, the Sam Shire MD said. In recent times too the company has concluded negotiations with Roadstone for a major order to put crushed glass into a Waterford County Council road construction project on a trial basis. “That is very encouraging’’, says Graham Leake, “and if it proves to be the success we believe it will be then another new and significant opportunity will have opened up for us’’.A further planned expansion starting next month will be the collection of bottles from pubs and hotels which the Sam Shire boss insists will be “another revolutionary service’’. The company is also looking to extend its service into South Tipperary."

So what went wrong?

The company closed its doors on April 2006 with a total of 4500 tons of recycling material (estimated) piled up on the the premises both inside and outside the main building.

The resulting story is well told by Christy Parker on the website from which I will quote the following:

"In 2001, Sam Shires, in conjunction with waste treatment company, HLC Henley Burrows Ltd. also of Worcester, successfully tendered for a five-year contract to handle Waterford County Council’s kerbside recyclable waste. It was the State’s first such public/private waste management contract. According to Paul Daly, former Senior Engineer at the Council’s Environment Department, Leake also received a Council loan of £25-30,000, which he repaid.
Interestingly, both companies, in conjunction with Roche Engineering Ballinasloe, failed to win a similar tender with Galway Co Council. Meanwhile, Waterford Co. Council declined to check Leake’s business cv, beyond tax clearance. Instead they “found the Henley Burrows CV impressive. We interviewed them and they were very knowledgeable,” explains Mr. Daly. It is unclear what subsequent role, if any, that company played.

Had they checked Leake’s credentials the Council might have unearthed a series of failed businesses, disgruntled creditors and various ongoing enterprises bearing similar ‘Sam Shire’ appendages with some variations on Leake’s own name.The Council also awarded Sam Shires a contract to empty and process the county’s bottle bank produce. A multi-national workforce of 28 was employed, with the waste baled primarily for sale and shipment to northern England.

Initially Waterford Co. Council paid Sam Shires a gate fee plus subsequent Repak subsidy. “That became a logistical nightmare so eventually we just increased his gate fee and retained the subsidy,” Mr. Daly elaborates. With South Tipperary literally adding weight, Leake processed 600 to 700 tons weekly, on a gate fee of approximately €100 per ton. Shipping costs to Britain were approximately €118 per container of 20 tons. He was doing well, though workers regularly complained of conditions and at least three Health and Safety inspections by Co. Council officials filed critical reports of the business.

Then, in early 2003, Leake stopped sending his segregated and baled product to Britain. Instead he availed of a London-based Trans Frontier Shipping agency called Railuk Environmental Solutions Ltd., operated by a Cameron Luck and a Mr. Paimir Rai. Railuk would buy co-mingled dry waste for shipping to India with Sam Shires further benefiting from a gate fee once it arrived. With no need for segregation, Leake could shed most of his workforce.

Amongst EU and OECD States, transported waste for recovery “within, into and out of the European Community” falls into three categories; Red -toxic/dangerous; Amber -non-hazardous co-mingled Green waste, which in turn was non-hazardous recyclable, like paper and plastic, etc. Of the three, Green waste does not require a TFS licence.

In October 2003, customs officials in Rotterdam and Antwerp intercepted over 100 containers of co-mingled waste categorised as Green and bound for India, where it would not have been accepted had it been properly listed as Amber. Nine Irish local authorities were implicated and up to 20 containers were traceable to Lismore. In December Cameron Luck sought, in vain, the intervention of the Department of Environment, claiming he could not afford the containers’ €5,000 weekly storage costs.

Under pressure from customs official through Waterford County Council, Leake eventually paid out over £50,000 storage and transportation costs before the Sam Shires containers returned to Lismore in February 2004. The ill-fated venture seriously crippled the company, given its low cash flow.

Leake was now in serious difficulty. He couldn’t get his picking line running again. He had containers of waste with nowhere to send them, while simultaneously Waterford County Council were sending him more waste, under contract. Plus, he had the bottle bank recovery and commercial waste to manage. “He finally found a German company to accept the waste but there was a kind of four-month hiatus when he couldn’t move anything and it just piled up,” recalls Mr. Daly. In 2004, the Council opened its own recycling plant in Dungarvan and did not renew the Sam Shires contract.

On June 5th 2005 Sam Shires was involuntarily struck off the register, having failed to file returns since January 2001. Nonetheless, the plant continued trading, still chipping away vainly at the waste. For awhile, it even continued honouring the bottle contract, with the County Council seemingly unaware of it’s non-legal status. That year also, the Council invoiced Sam Shires for €287,000 in respect of advanced gate fees for recycling that had not occurred, plus lost Repak subsidies.

In January 2006, the EPA surprisingly scuppered the Council’s plans for a new landfill outside Dungarvan. Consequentially the waste must eventually be transported outside the county, at enormous cost. The Council upped the invoice to €664,000, inclusive of advanced payment to remove the waste. It was a pointless demand, as the mountain of waste proved too steep to conquer. Sam Shires Services (Recycling) Limited closed its gates in April 2006.

Since then, Waterford County Council have sought redress. Last April, in Lismore District Court, they won a prosecution against Sam Shires Services (Recycling) Ltd, in Leake’s absence, under Section 55 of the Waste Management Act, for non-compliance with a notice for waste removal. Leake’s subsequent failure to honour that verdict preceded a High Court action under Section 58 of the Act."

This case was supposed to be heard on July 15, but the day before this was to take place the recycling plant went on fire. The case was postponed for one week. The company was then given a specific period to submit a plan to remove the waste and agreed to that court order. However no plan was submitted and therefore the company is in breach of a high court order.

In the mean time the waste is still there and whats more, the asbestos roofing sheets exploded during the fire and contaminated the site with asbestos. The County Council so eager to take the credit for an inovative idea in 2001, is now maintaining an "its not our problem" attitude, although has as a gesture tried to bag the asbestos pieces and demolished the building. The bags with asbestos are stored on site and will not be removed. The half burned remains of the recycling materials have been piled up in a heap and are now open to the elements. No longer packed in bundles the materials have started decomposing and is beginning to smell.

What is really making my blood boil is the attitude of the authorities. Yes it can be argued that by issuing a contract to the Sam Shire company to dispose of the recycling material, the County Council has no further responsibility (as they seem to think), however those of us who welcomed recycling and purchased the tags at € 2 - €2.50 each from the County Council feel cheated as we paid the county council for recycling the materials and not for storing it on the edge of a heritage Town. If one would calculated about 20kgs per tag, the 4500 MT of materials amount to 225,000 tags and therefore approx €500,000, surely we can expect some service for that amount of money.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Carbon footprint and our environment

As scientists make us believe, and I have no reason not to trust their findings, our carbon footprints are large, far too large for our environment to cope with and therefore need to be reduced. For a number of years now the discussion on how to reduce this footprint centres around reducing heating requirements, reducing dependency on oil based products, flights abroad etc. Again I have no difficulty with the sentiments of these discussions but they do tend to irritate me as these are in my opinion too much focussed on the "common" man and not on businesses.

In the whole discussion I have never come across information or discussion on the carbon footprints of arms for example. No, not the limbs hanging from ones shoulder but those carried around on your shoulders such as AK47' and Uzi's and the bigger ones such as missiles, rockets, bombs, clusterbombs, mines, tanks to name a few. I am sure that a reduction by half would have an enormous positive impact on the environment not to mention humanity. But I am probably very naive to think that the arms producers, sellers and buyers would be open to such a policy by the governments who allow them to exist.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaza conflict

Anybody following the Gaza conflict would possibly ask a number of questions and may be as confused as I am at present. I am totally against violence of any kind, but at the same time recognises anybody's right to defend themselves against attacks. So Israel is within its rights to defend itself against the rocket attacks by Hamas from Gaza. However, the Israeli attacks seem to me to be totally out of proportion, viewing Al Jazeera, it is reported today that more than 800 people in Gaza have lost their lives since the start of the conflict, a majority of them being civilians, i.e women and children, while Israel have suffered 13 (thirteen) casualties, 3 of them being civilians. Surely something is wrong if the UN and the western world can not see anything wrong with this conflict.